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Flotsam and Jetsam

A stunner: “The United Nations special tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has reached surprising new conclusions — and it is keeping them secret. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, investigators now believe Hezbollah was behind the Hariri murder.” That’s bad news for Hezbollah, especially heading into into the Lebanese elections, and for Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran.

The answers are (unfortunately) yes, no and yes to Bill Kristol’s queries: “Doesn’t Obama’s self-regard sometimes seem greater than his regard for the position he occupies? Does he understand that the office of the presidency is bigger–much bigger–than he is? Or does Obama think of the presidency primarily as a vessel through which to exercise his political gifts and pursue his personal achievements?”

It seems the sanctimonious protectors of our “values” are now relying to a greater extent than ever before on “foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects.” It is hard to argue with human rights groups that say relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence . . .” I certainly hope the Obama lawyers approving this are on firm legal ground and have counsel ready to defend them when future administrations accuse them of facilitating torture (not just a caterpillar and a slap but the real kind).

The Washington Post editors ponder: “We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn’t it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups — before it is too late?” It seems that the president’s oft-stated desire for “engagement” is never really intended to engage on matters objectionable to our adversaries (e.g. human rights).

Terry McAuliffe’s travails continue: “After a largely genteel campaign, McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, has suddenly become the axis around which the race turns as state Senator R. Creigh Deeds and former Delegate Brian Moran zero in on everything ranging from McAuliffe’s stewardship of the national party to his business dealings to his penchant for hyperbole.” As Larry J. Sabato explains, it’s probably a bad time to be associated with cozy high-stakes business deals. What is certain: this comment from a Moran strategist will come up in the general election if McAuliffe is the nominee: “His character is his greatest vulnerability.”

And in fact at least one poll shows the gap narrowing, with Deeds moving up fast (maybe that Washington Post endorsement gave him some momentum). One explanation (which seems to confirm that his rivals attacks are gaining traction): McAuliffe’s favorable/unfavorable rating (37%/36%) is considerably worse than his Democratic rivals.

Senate Republicans resist the White House’s efforts to commit to a “quickie” Supreme Court confirmation process — which seems smart since we have no idea who the nominee will be.

When the New York Times calls Guantanamo a “wedge” issue you know the president is in trouble. And he is: “Now the consensus from the campaign trail has dissolved, leaving Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike at odds with the White House. The conflagration has been fanned by the determined focus of Republican leaders, fed by the alarms of talk-show populists and aided by the miscalculation of a new president who set a date for a closing without announcing a detailed plan for the inmates. The debate now threatens to make it much harder for Mr. Obama to keep his campaign promise.”



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